We all killed Hannah Baker.
Except that isn’t true, or remotely close to true.
I watched the entirety of 13 Reasons Why in two days. Not because it was that good, not because I didn’t see what was coming, and definitely not because I was that invested in the rationale of a suicide.
But because I wanted to write about it, and I wanted to get it over with. And it didn’t seem like the kind of thing that was appropriate to write about without watching from beginning to end.
I saw myself in Hannah Baker more than once. And that’s why I find it so hard to take her seriously.
When I was 15, I was sexually assaulted.
When I was 16, I found out that all of my closest friends were talking about me behind my back, and my best friend and I stopped speaking completely.
When I was 17, I lost my virginity to a football player that I thought I was in love with. But he didn’t care about me the way I cared about him, and like any hormonal teenage girl, I thought that was the end of the world.
At the beginning of senior year, I fell for my best friend. And he fell for me. But our timing was always off, and when I finally thought we’d got it right, I felt him losing interest in me. And on the outside, I handled it with an alarmingly effortless calm. I texted him that we could break up if he wanted to, and he was baffled at not only my ability to understand him without him telling me anything but how unemotional I was. I didn’t text him in paragraphs or caps. I didn’t call him. I didn’t make it anymore difficult than it had to be. But even though I refused to let him see it, I was a mess.
And I was insane. I would cry, and cry, and cry about these things that seemed like matters of life and death in the moment, but were never, ever that deep.
Hannah Baker overreacted. I’m not saying that to be cruel or because I don’t understand her, I’m saying it because it’s true. I’m saying it because I overreacted too, and because acknowledging the triviality of my problems was essential to moving forward for me and getting past some of the darkest times of my life.
Like Hannah Baker, I thought there was something profound about the pain I was in. But there wasn’t, and there rarely ever is.
In the moment, it’s impossible to see most emotional pain for what it is: temporary. We get so invested in these moments of our lives that we forget just how much living we have left to do. We can’t see past the heartbreak of the present, and lose ourselves and all sense of direction in it.
Time after time, Hannah expected others to save her while refusing to actually, explicitly seek help. The show continuously raises the point that you never know what someone else is going through, but fails to realize the irony in blaming teenagers with lives of their own for the death of Hannah Baker. Jessica’s father was in the military, and she was raped by a close friend of hers. Justin was from an impoverished, unstable home with a drug addict mother and a series of her abusive boyfriends. Clay, who had continually tried his hardest to be there for Hannah, had to deal with the death of a good friend, but because they didn’t reach out to Hannah the way she wanted them to or had moments of selfishness or poor judgment we’re supposed to assign them responsibility for a decision they had nothing to do with?
Like Hannah, Alex was also ultimately responsible for the decision he made. But while we’re playing the blame game, are we going to continue to ignore the fact that the obnoxious, narcissistic tapes that Hannah left behind probably played a large part in why Alex decided to end his own life?
I don’t like talking about this because it’s nobody’s business, but I’ve been suicidal. I’ve frantically scribbled goodbye notes before coming to my senses. I’ve been at the train station, flinching towards the tracks. I’ve been staring out of a window, wondering if I was high enough up to end it all and I’ve been high enough up to know that I could, toying with the idea of my own death like a cat with yarn. And it’s with certainty that I can say that every time I’ve been my own hero, and saved my own life.
That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong or weak about asking for help. But Mr. Porter was right when he said that you can’t love someone back to life. And in all honesty, I think it was irresponsible of the show that aimed to raise awareness on suicide and bullying to perpetuate the idea that suicidal girls can be cured by romance with so many young, impressionable viewers. Somewhere, a 15 year old girl struggling with the urge to kill herself is going to enter a relationship, thinking that it will save her and end up frustrated, confused and disappointed when she realizes that all the love in the world means nothing if she doesn’t love herself. I can’t speak for everyone that’s ever struggled with depression or suicidal thoughts, but I believe firmly that we can’t count on other people to show us what we have to live for.
This is only my opinion, but shows like 13 Reasons Why do nothing for people struggling with mental illness or suicidal thoughts. They indulge vulnerable people in their own self pity and victimhood, propelling them into alternate realities void of responsibility, where the world is to blame for their problems. And while it may be what some people would like to hear, it’s not what they need to hear.
The picture that Bryce sent from Justin’s phone didn’t kill her. Alex’s list didn’t kill her. Courtney’s lies didn’t kill her, and Zach stealing her compliments didn’t kill her.
Hannah Baker killed herself, and it’s tragic. She robbed herself of countless opportunities and a future that she’ll never know because she couldn’t move past temporary pain. And as sad as that is, she’s the only person to blame.